Guillermo del Toro’s new movie Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — an adaptation of Alvin Schwartz’s book series — haunts theaters this week. I didn’t read the books growing up as a child. I was too much of a scaredy cat.
But then I studied collections of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand — one of Schwartz’s influences — when I was in my twenties. It may not be Halloween yet, but it’s the perfect time to swap scary stories. Here are some of my favorites, and some are actually true.
Tell me which I of your stories I missed in the comments section below.._
Note: In true Urban Legend fashion, I elected not to reread any versions of these stories, but to tell them as well as I can from my own memory. This is how stories grow and change from one teller to the next.
The New Pet
On a trip to Mexico, a woman found a sickly, abandoned dog. She snuck it back across the border with her and nursed it back to health. However, she became very concerned about her new pet. It had a nasty temper, often tried to bite her, and had a voracious appetite. She finally took her new dog to the vet. After a while, the veterinarian came out and asked her, “Where did you get that thing?”
“I found that dog in an alley in Mexico,” she confessed. “He was very sick. I couldn’t leave him there.”
“That’s no dog,” the vet told her. “That’s a Mexican sewer rat!”
She nearly fainted.
(This is the first urban legend I ever heard.)
This is a legend that constantly gets told about a certain theme park. Brunvand has tried to track down anyone who can verify it. But everyone always claims it happened to a “friend of a friend.” It’s why he likes to call these FOAF stories.
“If you ever go to [World Famous Theme Park I’m Not Getting Sued By], keep a close eye on your children. If you lose a child, report it to an employee immediately. Time is of the essence.
Security will take you to an underground room with monitors that show you the entire park. They’ll tell you to search for your child’s face. Their clothing and hairstyle may have already been altered by the kidnappers.
True story: my cousin’s friends got lucky. They were able to recognize their kid and stop the kidnapper. The little boy’s head had been shaved, and he was dressed differently. I hate to think about what happens to other families. Something shady is going on there. If you vacation there, be careful.
(It’s never made sense to me that you would lose valuable getting away time to shave the child’s head. When I discovered this was an urban legend, I thought it would bring my sister some relief, as this is one of her greatest fears every time we visit this park. Instead, she double downed on her belief that this story is 100% true. Some people don’t want to hear that their kid isn’t the most valuable thing on Earth.)
The Killer With the Hook
Several variants on this story. Here’s one: A couple was parked out on Lover’s Lane one night. They kept hearing this “scratch, scratch, scratch” noise. When the man got out to investigate, he saw a hooded figure with a hook for a hand, scraping away at the roof of the car. The hook-handed fiend swiped at the man, nearly taking his head off. The man got back in the car and locked the doors. He started the car and gunned it, but the killer hung on, crawling down onto the hood of the car and shaking his deadly hook at them. The woman shrieked. The killer crawled back up the car and began trying to punch his way through the back windshield. The driver sped up and finally lost the killer on a sharp curve.
Later, when he got home, he tried to convince himself it had all been a bad dream. But the next morning, when he came outside, he found a hook caught in the car window.
[Ed Note: I STILL find this one scary….shudders.]
A Scary Drive
A woman was driving alone at night. A large truck came behind her, all of a sudden. It flashed its lights at her and honked, but refused to pass her. She became nervous because of the other vehicle’s aggressive actions. She sped up a little but every time she sped up, so did the truck. Every now and then, it would honk and flash its lights again.
She tried to motion for the truck to go around her, but the driver stayed on her tail as if he were stalking her. When she finally came to a gas station, she pulled over and jumped out of the car, yelling for help. When the truck pulled in, the driver yelled out the window, “There’s someone else in the car!”
Moments later, the truck driver and the service station manager, both armed, approached the woman’s car. In the backseat, they found a killer with a knife. He’d snuck into the car at the last gas station she stopped at. Every time the killer had reared up to stab the woman, the heroic trucker flashed his lights to blind him.
(This story is the reason I look in my backseat EVERY time I get into my car. The opening scene of the movie Urban Legend does a good adaptation of this one.) [Ed Note: Also the 10th Rule in ZombieLand.]
This Urban Legend pops up in a lot of horror movies and surely you’ve seen this terrifying idea or a variant of it:
One night, a young woman was babysitting her neighbors’ kids. All night long, she kept getting creepy phone calls. “You’re all going to die,” the voice on the other line would say. Thirty minutes later, she would receive another call, “I’m going to slit your throats.” After she put the children to bed, she got a third nasty phone call. So she dialed the operator to see if they could trace the calls.
When the threatening voice called again, it was followed by another call from the operator. “Get out! Quick! The call’s coming from inside the house!”
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